Empathy

You know you’ve been working too hard, for too long, when you realize you’ve never seen the movie Funny Face with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. How did this happen? My favorite college course was The History of George Gershwin for a Humanities credit my sophomore year. The fact that I missed out on this treasure for so long is mind boggling. Why aren’t movies made like this anymore? Funny Face is exceptional in regard to cinematography, music, dance, philosophy, and… FUN.

The movie brings forth my whole personal philosophy on empathy—something I know all about as an RN and someone with celiac. I’ve been on both sides: the caretaker and the dependent, and think about empathy a lot.

I live in a very interesting, mixed community of fast-paced young families and the elderly. People are rushing to work and to pick their kids up. There’s a lot of traffic. I let people over, or pass. I was once a working mom with young kids. I get it. I empathize. Then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum: an elderly gentleman trying to make a left hand turn. Perhaps his reflexes are slower, or he can’t see as well. I take a deep breath. I understand. At the market, I’ll let the one-item person behind me in line hop in front. Why should they wait for my 15 groceries to get scanned, if I can help? I’m also getting better at sending gobs of emails to my web designer. She has a ton of patience and understands I get excited about new topics. She’s perceptive and gets it. And I’m learning, too.

Now that I have more time and feel empowered by empathy, I do however wish I would’ve had more compassion when I was younger. No excuses, but—in retrospect—if I wasn’t feeling so unwell myself, maybe I would’ve noticed times I could’ve been more responsive (instead of looking back now and feeling regret).

Sometimes we run from people we think are sucking out our soul. But if we have the strength, we can muster up the ability to sympathize to the why they’re behaving this way. Maybe even ask to help. Of course—if they are truly detrimental—we have to remove ourselves from the toxicity. But perhaps we could deliberately examine the situation first?

If your strength is zapped, or you are suffering from whatever ails you, you can’t always pause and help. Or pay attention or be mindful. Everyone is dealing with their own aches, pains, paperwork, email backlog, too busy, hurt feelings, etc. to notice that sometimes we can all slow down and become more aware and compassionate.

It’s easier for me to say that now. My kids are grown. I’m feeling well.

As far as the day-in/day-out of celiac disease goes and dealing with restaurants, family gatherings, parties, picnics and people unknowledgeable about celiac in general… It’s not their fault. They don’t understand. It’s confusing. Use it as a teachable moment. This time feeling for them and for their lack of education in this area. Hopefully it will help someone else if you have patience with them!  It’s possible they can empathize with other people they meet with the same thing—through YOU.

We must remember that “Gluten-free” is not just a diet trend. It’s wrapped around a real illness. We all have to do a better job of distinguishing between the fad, political correctness, and the disease.  For example:

Ted Cruz Pledges Not to Provide Gluten-Free Meals to the Military     

Feb. 16, 2016, by Katie Reilly

TIME MAGAZINE: Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz looked to gain the support of military voters in South Carolina on Tuesday, promising to build a robust military if elected and pledged not to provide gluten-free military meals, which he equated with a culture of political correctness.

That’s why the last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments—or providing gluten-free MREs,” Cruz said, using the shorthand term for Meal, Ready-to-Eat, CNN reported.

About 1% of Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that makes a person intolerant to gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. A spokesman for the Department of Defense said the provision of gluten-free meals differs based on the military branch.


Celiac disease is an autoimmune-based disorder in genetically predisposed individuals where the ingestion of gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) causes damage to the small intestine. Recent population-based screening studies have shown celiac disease to be a common long-term disorder with a prevalence of approximately 1–2% in both children and adults. Much research has also been done on the Celiac diet and its impact on one’s quality of life. According to this abstract byAnne Lee, MSEd, RD, and Jacqueline M. Newman, PhD, RD of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association:

Frequencies and cross-tabulations indicated several areas of negative impact in maintaining a gluten-free diet. They included the difficulties of dining out (86%), travel (82%), and impact on family (67%) and less of a negative impact on career or work (41%). The gluten-free diet impacted various lifestyle aspects of the quality of life for individuals with celiac disease.